The University of Liverpool will lead a £1.7million AHRC award to make it possible for people to trace the records of Londoners sentenced to either imprisonment or transportation from 1787 up to the 1920s when the last convict died.
The project, `The Digital Panopticon: The Global Impact of London Punishments, 1780-1925’ funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), will use digital technologies to bring together existing and new genealogical, biometric and criminal justice datasets held by different organisations in the UK and Australia to produce a searchable website.
`The Digital Panopticon’, which involves the Universities of Oxford, Sheffield and Sussex in the UK and the University of Tasmania in Australia, will make it possible to explore the impact of the different types of penal punishments on the lives of 66,000 people sentenced at The Old Bailey.
Barry Godfrey, Professor of Social Justice in the University’s School of Law and Social Justice, said: “This project will, for the first time, make it possible to chart the fortunes of all prisoners from London who were transported to Australia from the point of their conviction until their deaths.
The Digital Panopticon will not only be of interest to the 12 million family historians in the UK and Australia but will also help resolve some important questions that have intrigued historians, sociologists, social geographers, linguistic researchers, economists and criminologists about the impact and effects of imprisonment, and of transportation to Australia.”
The project is funded by the AHRC’s Digital Transformations programme which aims to exploit the potential of digital technologies to transform research in the arts and humanities, and to ensure that arts and humanities research is at the forefront of tackling crucial issues such as intellectual property, cultural memory and identity, and communication and creativity in a digital age.
Explore the human condition
Professor Andrew Prescott, Theme Leadership Fellow for the Digital Transformations programme, said: “The recently announced large grants under the Digital Transformations theme each reflect in their different ways how engagement with digital technologies is changing research in the arts and humanities and offering researchers many new possibilities.
“The most striking thing about all these projects is that while they will develop and deploy innovative technologies, they will use these methods to explore the human condition: the way we developed”